As far as absolute requirements go, there aren’t many which are needed in order to make a photograph. There is, however, one certain necessity that cannot be dispensed with if you set yourself onto the maddening path of a photographer. You need a camera. Now, it doesn’t really matter which camera you have. A camera is after all just a box with an opening that allows light to pass onto some kind of receptor.
This simplistic technology is the facilitator of every photograph that has ever been made. A camera is indeed just a tool. That being said, there are virtually limitless cameras to choose from in this world. If there’s one question I receive more than any other it is this . . .
Which camera should I buy?
On its own that is an unanswerable question. You see, as it relates to cameras and photography, the camera you use is utterly dependent on you. This is not a guide for how to choose the right camera from a technical standpoint, nor is it a commentary on what gear is better than any other. This is an article to help you to understand yourself and to that end, the type of camera that will allow you to fulfill whatever needs you have right now, and maybe even beyond.
There are so many cameras to choose from (remember we’ve said this) that it can quite literally become overwhelming to make a choice. There are point and shoot cameras, cropped sensor digital SLRs, mirrorless cameras, full-frame mirrorless, and so on.
Of those cameras, there are also countless models and variations which muddy the waters even more. Each one essentially performs the same function, which is to make a photograph. Still, each type of camera offers many variables that work for a wide variety of different situations and for different people. But you have to decide which camera fits YOU best.
The biggest hurdle to conquer when choosing a camera is to understand exactly what you want and need. That is not always as easy as it sounds. However, here are some tips to assist in making your decision.
Where do you shoot?
The location where you will be doing most of your shooting takes up a big chunk of the pie when it comes to deciding on a camera.
Will you be outdoors most of the time or will you be inside in more of a studio-type setting? Do you need weather sealing? How about wireless flash capability? Having an idea of the environment in which you will most often find yourself will help you to better understand the features you may or may not need in a camera.
What will you shoot?
The “what” you will be shooting goes hand-in-hand with the “where.” While it’s not possible to completely predict every subject you will ever photograph it’s still very possible to know what kind of photography you enjoy.
If you understand what you like to shoot, then you can move forward in a more educated and deliberate fashion when deciding what camera to buy. If you love street photography then a smaller, more compact system, may be better to carry around for hours on end. Need a lot of resolution for landscapes? Ask yourself what you will use the camera for the most and the choice will become much clearer.
Where are you now in your photographic journey?
It’s a good idea to be constantly self-aware of where you stand in your journey as a photographer. The benefits of constant self-evaluation helps you to grow your skills and refine your craft. It also allows you to know when and if you have surpassed the capabilities of your equipment and need to upgrade. When it comes to finding a camera that fits your current position within the photography world, you must look at the realities of your situation and proceed accordingly.
Are you just starting out and need a learning tool? Are you a hobbyist who only shoots occasionally, or have you pushed yourself everyday and now feel like you need a more advanced camera body to facilitate your growing ability? Take stock of yourself and be honest (even brutally) so that you can find the best camera to fit your needs.
Where do you want to take your photography?
Perhaps even more important than learning where you stand in terms of your photography is knowing where you want to take your work. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, that your camera is the link between you and whatever vision you want to express with your images.
This expression can be personal, commercial, or something in between. Realizing where you want to go and setting goals is paramount in your development as a photographer. Naturally, your choice of camera should reflect this.
I remember when I was starting out on my own journey making photos. I realized that this was something I wanted to pursue seriously. So I invested in a camera that not only fit my needs at the time, but would also grow with me as I moved towards making photography a career. I still have that camera (Canon 7D Mk1) and it still sees a fair amount of use today. It was quite an investment for a lowly college student at the time but it has paid for itself time and time again, not just from a monetary standpoint.
The internet is chock full of more reviews and tech write-ups than I can count. So I hope you didn’t come here looking for advice on the latest and greatest advancements in the camera industry. Instead, hopefully you got something much more meaningful from this article; the understanding of how important it is to truly know yourself and what you intend to do with your photography.
Are you a beginner? Are you a hobbyist set on taking your passion to the next level? Or are you still trying to decide if that shiny new dSLR is worth the money just to take pictures of your pet?
Whatever your current situation may be, before you buy a camera be sure you know why, how, and to what end you intend to use it. Take it from me, you can save yourself a lot of regret by simply understanding your own intentions on the front end before making the jump.